Date & Time2:00pm, 26 January 2021 - 3:30pm, 26 January 2021
About the event
The decline of media freedom in the Commonwealth has been identified by Commonwealth Member States, institutions and civil society as an issue of growing concern. Threats to media freedom are contributing to an erosion of democratic culture and diminished government accountability at a time when such accountability has never been more important—or more urgent.
All Commonwealth Member States have publicly committed themselves to upholding ‘peaceful, open dialogue and the free flow of information, including through a free and responsible media’. But across the Commonwealth, assaults on media freedom are becoming more commonplace and more severe.
While there are many events looking at these issues, this event will focus on issues unique to the Commonwealth’s position: asking what can be done by and with Commonwealth institutions, what can civil society do to work against the multiple forces that are seeking to close down the free flow of accurate and truthful information and the role the Commonwealth needs to play if it is to remain true to its own principles.
This event has taken place. You can watch it here:
Dr Julie Posetti is a multi-award winning, internationally published journalist and academic. She is the inaugural Global Director of Research with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) where she leads the Journalism and the Pandemic Project (in collaboration with the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University), and a major global study into online violence against women journalists.
She also co-leads the #HoldTheLine Coalition – an advocacy partnership that campaigns on behalf of prominent American-Filipino journalist Maria Ressa whose case is emblematic of convergent threats confronting journalism and democracy globally. She brings three decades of high-level international journalism practice to her research, including time as a news editor, documentary reporter and national political correspondent with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
Previously, Dr Posetti was Senior Research Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (University of Oxford), where she led the Journalism Innovation Project, which involved her being embedded in three Global South news organisations, and publishing reports examining innovative responses to disinformation and online toxicity.
Clare Rewcastle Brown is an award-winning* British journalist and the founder and editor of the website Sarawak Report, which came to prominence for challenging wide-scale political corruption in Malaysia and its impact on civil and indigenous rights as well as on the environment. Her investigations resulted in the exposure of the 1MDB Development Fund scandal which revealed grand kleptocracy by the Malaysian Prime Minister, rocked the global financial community, put ‘offshore’ on the run and embarrassed some of the most famous figures in Hollywood, Vegas and New York. Malaysia issued a warrant for her arrest in 2015 and requested INTERPOL place her on the international Red Notice list. The request was rejected, however, and following the election of a new government in May 2018 Malaysia cancelled all charges against her.
*Fortune Magazine named her one of the World’s 50 Most Influential Figures in 2016; she was named one of Britain’s Women of the Year 2016; In 2013 she received the International Press Institute’s Pioneer of Media Freedom Award for Radio Free Sarawak; in 2014 she received Queensland University’s Communication for Social Change Award and she was winner of the One World Media Special Award from CNN in 2015. In 2018 she was the winner of the Guardian Award for International Fraud Reporting (ACFE) and also the Bob Brown Foundation’s ‘Environmentalist Of The Year’ in Australia.
Manasseh Azure Awuni is one of Ghana’s foremost investigative journalists and a staunch anti-corruption crusader. After graduating from the School of Journalism, Manasseh practised briefly as a freelance journalist before joining Joy 99.7 FM (The Multimedia Group) as a senior broadcast journalist in 2012. He resigned in June 2019 and returned to the world of freelance journalism, focusing on investigative and anti-corruption reporting that has led to policy change, dismissal and prosecution of officials. He continues to nurture talent by training African journalists on how to stop corruption in the tax sector and has spoken at numerous international conferences. Manasseh is a recipient of many awards in recognition of his outstanding performance in journalism. He is a staunch promoter of made-in-Ghana products.
Steffon R. K. Campbell is an Assistant Lecturer at the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication at the University of the West Indies (CARIMAC—UWI) at the Mona, Jamaica campus. Steffon is a journalist, podcaster and producer who has worked on investigative stories through the Caribbean Investigative Journalism Network. He is a contributor to the Western Mirror newspaper in Montego Bay, Jamaica and has produced several radio programmes and documentaries. Steffon is also a Communication Consultant, currently pursuing a PhD in Social Policy and an LLB at UWI. His areas of specialization include investigative journalism, organizational communication, communication on taboo subjects, social policy and the role of media in public information and education. Two of his most noteworthy publications are:
- ‘The Caribbean’s Pandemic Pyramids and Ponzis’, Caribbean Investigative Journalism Network, 2020
- ‘China’s Opaque Caribbean Trail: Dreams, Deals and Debt’, Caribbean Investigative Journalism Network, 2019
Guy Berger leads UNESCO’s work in the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity; indicators for UNESCO’s concept of Internet Universality, and monitoring of Sustainable Development Goal 16.10 indicators on safety of journalists, and guarantees of access to information.
Within his portfolio are UNESCO’s commemorations of five international milestones each year, related to radio, press freedom, access to information, media and information literacy as well as ending impunity for crimes against journalists.
He has overseen much of UNESCO’s work on disinformation, including the major study ‘Balancing Act: Countering Digital Disinformation while respecting Freedom of Expression’. He has a PhD from Rhodes University, South Africa, and has a long history of scholarship about press freedom in Africa.
Rana Ayyub is an Indian investigative journalist and a political writer and an important voice from South Asia. She has worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with some of the leading publications in India and internationally. Her pieces appear in the Washington Post, New York Times, Guardian and Foreign Policy among other publications. At present, she is a Global Opinions Writer for the Washington Post based in Mumbai.
In December 2019, New Yorker profiled her for its cover story on India.
In a career spanning fourteen years, Rana has been awarded the Sanskriti Award for integrity and excellence in journalism by the President of India. She was the recipient of the Global Shining Light award for Investigative journalism in the year 2017 and the Most Resilient Global Journalist of 2018 at the Peace Palace in Hague. In 2019, she was named by Time magazine among ten global journalists who face maximum threats to their lives across the world. Rana is based in Mumbai. In the year, 2018 The United Nations allotted six special rapporteurs to the Indian government to protect her safety, a first for an individual case in India.
Earlier this year she was announced as the recipient of the McMgill medal for journalistic courage. In the year 2018, Rana graced the cover of Marie Claire, South Africa as a journalist and a woman who led an extraordinary life of courage and resilience.
She is 36 and lives in Mumbai with her family.
A Time Magazine’s Person of the Year 2018, photographer, writer, curator and activist, Shahidul Alam obtained a PhD in chemistry before switching to photography. Alam’s ongoing work ‘The Struggle for Democracy’ which started with the resistance to autocratic general Hussain Muhammad Ershad has recorded the people’s struggle for democracy over three decades. Former president of Bangladesh Photographic Society, Alam set up the Drik agency, Bangladesh Photographic Institute, Chobi Mela festival, Majority World agency and Pathshala, the South Asian Media Institute, considered one of the finest schools of photography in the world.
Shown in MOMA New York, Centre Georges Pompidou Paris, Tate Modern London and Museum of Contemporary Arts Tehran, Alam has curated at Whitechapel Gallery, Winterthur Gallery, National Art Gallery Malaysia, Musee de Quai Branly and Brussels Biennale. His awards include Shilpakala Padak, the highest state award given to Bangladeshi artists, the Lifetime Achievement Awards from China and India, the Lucie Foundation Humanitarian Award and the ICP Infinity Special Presentation Award. He is the 2020 recipient of the International Press Freedom Award given by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
A chair of World Press Photo international jury, Alam has spoken at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities. He is Honorary Fellow of Royal Photographic Society and Visiting Professor of Sunderland University.
John Morris described his book ‘My journey as a witness’ as “The most important book ever written by a photographer”. A blogger and a new media pioneer, Alam introduced email to Bangladesh. Described by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience, Alam was arrested in August 2018, for criticising the Bangladeshi government, but was released on bail after over 100 days in jail after a massive global campaign for his release.
Alam’s retrospective ‘Truth to Power’ is showing at the Rubin Museum in New York. His new book ‘The Tide Will Turn’ by Steidl, with photographs by Alam and pioneering Bangladeshi photographers and text by Arundhati Roy and Alam was selected in New York Time’s ‘Best Art Books of 2020’ list.
Driven by her passion for the profession, Zoe has dedicated the last 26 years of her life to advancing media freedom and development. She has used her experience of fighting for rights, to develop a broader intersectional approach to her work and push for access to information (ATI) as the underpinning foundational bedrock of all other rights.
Her obsession for universal ATI contributed to the birth of the high-level lobby group – African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) Working Group, which successfully campaigned for UN recognition of September 28 as International Day for Universal Access to Information.
Her decade long stint as former regional director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) saw her spearheading a number of projects and campaigns designed to provide practical support to journalists in danger. At the same time she worked on transforming the policy environment to support a vibrant and independent media sector.
Titus is presently the Director of the Namibia Media Trust (NMT) which, as of 2018, is the first African organisation to contribute financially to the sustainability of the Unesco Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.
In understanding the potential of the media, she has contributed to ground breaking initiatives to making a positive and profound change on the lives of people in the region.
She serves in advisory capacities to several regional and international initiatives, including ARISA (the Advancing Rights in Southern Africa project), and is co-founder of the single massive open online teaching platform on media policy in Africa, the Jeanette Minnie Memorial Course in African Media Policy in the Digital Age, hosted by the Link Centre and Wits online platform, edX.
Caroline Muscat is a Maltese award-winning investigative journalist and the founder of The Shift, an online investigative news portal based in Malta.
Caroline contributed to and co-edited the book, ‘Invicta: The Life and Work of Daphne Caruana Galizia’, a journalist assassinated in Malta in October 2017. Her work has been featured in a number of international publications and she has been interviewed on press freedom issues by major international media including Al Jazeera, BBC World, Euronews, The Guardian, and ZDF.
She was awarded the prestigious Reporters Without Borders Prize for Independence in 2019 for her dedication to investigative journalism in the public interest in a hostile climate.
Caroline is regularly invited to address conferences and workshops on challenges faced by the media and policies needed to strengthen press freedom in Europe.